Art is an Act of Love

A duet by Corinne Whitaker and W. H. Auden


Humans were once considered a unique species

With special god-given talents that made us superior

To other forms

Of life.

Now the line between ourselves and other creatures is eroding.

Living matter is growing on inert substances

Metal can heal itself

Silicon machines are starting to question

Their human programmers.

The creatures of tomorrow may be more silicon than carbon.

They may not even recognize us as their progenitors

And if they do, they may not like us very much.

What sets us apart

What cannot as yet be manufactured, hardwired or softwired

Is the ability to feel, to care, and to love.

Art is an act of love.


Some say love's a little boy

And some say it's a bird

Some say it makes the world go round

And some say that's absurd.

And when I asked the man next door

Who looked as if he knew

His wife got very cross indeed

And said it wouldn't do.


To think is to be alive, or so said Descartes.

Are we the only thinking creatures? When animals protect their young are they thinking, or responding instinctively? Do computers think, or merely respond to instructions? Do we ourselves merely respond to genetic instructions?

Is that why we kill

And kill

And gorge on the sight

Of the blood of each other?

By day. By night.


Does it look like a pair of pyjamas

Or the ham in a temperance hotel?

Does its odour remind one of llamas

Or has it a comforting smell?


I presume that Hitler, Idi Amin, the Menendez brothers, were once trusting infants and lovable babies. What virulent instructions were mixed with their daily formula? And how do we accept that they, like us, are human beings, offspring of female and male coupling, born of mothers' wombs?

Somehow love was not enough

Or perhaps there was not enough love

There is never enough art

For art is an act of love.


Is it prickly to touch as a hedge is,

Or soft as eiderdown fluff?

Is it sharp or quite smooth at the edges?

O tell me the truth about love.


Petal by petal, like e.e.cummings,

We unwrap the mysterious world

Of bytes and RAM, of SCSI's and ROM.

Drop by drop, like Auden, we unfold the digital ocean

And hang it out to dry.

And on the way, on the bumpy binary way,

We learn a bit more about ourselves

And we learn that love is a delicate art

And art is an act of love.


When it comes, will it come without warning,

Just as I'm picking my nose?

Will it knock on my door in the morning,

Or tread in the bus on my toes?

Will it come like a change in the weather?

Will its greeting be courteous or rough?

Will it alter my life altogether?

O tell me the truth about love.


O Tell me the truth about hate

Does it lurk at the heart's open gate?

Will it bite me at night?

Turn my hat white?

Alter my mood?

Poison my food?

Drop from above?

Massacre love?

Will it fatten my purse?

Cause me to curse?

Hand me a gun

To kill someone,anyone,everyone?

O tell me the truth about hate.


I will tell you the truth about love

For Art

Is an act

Of love.

c. Corinne Whitaker 2023

Notes: W. H. Auden, "O Tell Me The Truth About Love", 1939, abbreviated.

Corinne Whitaker, "Art is an Act of Love", 1998, expanded.

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